Insitu: Weeks Six and Seven

I’m now passed the halfway point of my internship and realizing how quickly time is passing. I’ll finish up here in mid-September and then start school again the week after that. Here are some random, loosely organized thoughts on what I’ve learned.

Flying Time

Every day at Insitu offers another reminder of how much I have to learn. The most valuable people there, at least as far as my work is concerned, are the ones who have been there for a decade or more, and who have been working elsewhere in the industry for even longer.

I often read about age discrimination in the tech industry, where employers are biased toward younger employees who presumably are more familiar with all of the fancy new technology. Obviously that’s the trend, but I’m seeing the other side of it, too, at least in the firmware world. In a lot of ways, the technologies are not new and fancy, they’re just a reimagining of the same old languages and protocols.

Lower Levels

Speaking of the same old technologies, I’m consistently reminded of the things I learned and the work I did in the two low-level classes I took at Oregon State, Assembly and Networks. Even though I enjoyed the work in those classes, I was often frustrated that so much of the quizzes and tests were focused on seemingly trivial tasks like converting numbers between hexadecimal and decimal, or decimal and binary, or masking IP addresses with subnet masks. But I’m doing exactly those things, and other related tasks, on a daily basis at Insitu. Damn you Stephen Redfield! You were right!

Of course, all of this stuff can be accomplished by opening up an online tool or calculator, but being able to do it on scratch paper or in my head is usually faster. It also helps keep me in the right train of thought - having to open up a browser tab is a distraction.

Less Programming

One thing that’s surprised me about my time at Insitu is that it hasn’t been all programming, all the time. In school, that’s the main focus. But here, I often find myself doing an hour or more of research just to figure out which angle to approach a problem from. That’s mostly thanks to the fact that a lot of what I’m working with is proprietary technology.

There’s no guide online of how to do this or that, so I have to find the right person at the company who knows how to do it. But often times their experience doesn’t map perfectly to what I’m trying to do, and sometimes that person doesn’t exist at all. So I’m left trying to figure how to do something that hasn’t been done before, at least not in the way that I’m trying to do it. It can be very frustrating to reach a wall knowing that there’s no one who can help me over it…except myself. It’s a constant reminder that the obstacle is the way.